Funkify! The Afrofuture Is Now

Feb 23, 2016

A classic silent disco scene. The idea was first mentioned in a Finnish science fiction film in 1969.
Credit creative commons

  February is African American History Month, and the folks at the Honolulu Museum of Art will be celebrating with a specially themed ARTafterDARK this Friday.  Get ready for a night of Afrofuturist films, music, and activities including what’s billed as Hawai‘i’s first large-scale public silent disco.  HPR’s Noe Tanigawa reports.

ARTafterDARK’s Afrofuturist party runs 6-9 at the Honolulu Museum of Art this Friday, February 26th.  

Afrofuturism is a term coined in the early 90’s to examine work that dealt with African and African American culture with science fiction and futuristic themes.  Encompassing music, literature, film, and fine arts, it’s a largely joyful exploration of black culture, technology, and imagination, with a good dose of science fiction.

Programmer, educator, writer, and cultural critic David Goldberg.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

Writer, cultural critic David Goldberg is advisor for the Honolulu Museum’s upcoming Afrofuturist shindig.  He says early theorists saw slavery as parallel to alien abduction.  He asserts that artists in the Afrofuturist genre are responding in their own ways “to what happened with European expansion and the creation of these global markets.  Because what was perfected on Black people became the way we treat, capitalism treats, everyone.”

Goldberg contends the world needs different visions of the future, and perhaps altered interpretations of the past can open new viewpoints.  He says, “If you think about slavery as alien abduction, then you have access to a different way of looking at that.  Suddenly maybe it’s not the same kind of victimhood.”

Reimagining slavery, exploring even a deviant beauty, using playfulness and creativity, all these tactics make for new ways to imagine the future.

But what is an Afrofuturist party like?  HMA’s Art After Dark is reliably one of Honolulu’s best parties , and for this one, DJ’s will be spinning Sun Ra and George Clinton through Janelle Monae, and Drexciya.   Detroit techno.

Significantly, however, this will be a silent disco.  People will be gyrating with headphones on, wirelessly tuned into several different DJ’s.  ARTafterDARK board member Eddie Quan has participated in silent discos, where people are shimmying down and throwing their heads back and hands in the air, all at different rhythms.

“It’s very liberating,” says Quan, “Because when you close your eyes you feel like you’re in your shower, then when you open them,  there’s the liberation and freedom of being surrounded by other people who are just losing themselves in the music.”

The first 500 guests to ARTafterDARK on Feb. 26 can pick up a wireless headset at the entrance, and use them to tune into not one, not two, but three different DJ stations. The specialized headsets light up in three colors—blue, green, and red—each corresponding to a DJ’s audio channel. DJs can see whose tunes are the most popular, and guests can crank up the volume and dance.

Guests can revel in an art projection by Afrofuture artist Ed Hemphill, and the museum will screen the milestone Afrofuture film The Last Angel of History by John Akomfrah.

Whatever you do, Goldberg asks that you leave the rainbow afro wig at home!

Reading suggested by David Goldberg:

Afrofuturism reimagines Detroit’s future

Larry Heard’s Galactic Travels Suite music and video